Work to Begin on Anti-Missile Laser Plane
United Press International
SEATTLE, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Work is set to begin at a Boeing facility in Kansas that will transform a Boeing 747-400 cargo jet into a laser-armed flying anti-missile weapon.
Boeing said the jumbo jet flew from Everett, Wash., to a Boeing facility in Wichita, Kan., Saturday to being its 18-month transformation into the United States' first airborne anti-missile system.
When completed, the Airborne Laser aircraft will begin testing its ability to knock out incoming missiles like the Scud, which are launched hundreds of miles away, with a chemical oxygen-iodine laser mounted in a turret on the plane's nose. Boeing said the ABL is scheduled to be tested against an actual Scud in 2003; Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and TRW are developing the ABL in conjunction with the Air Force.
The system is part of the Defense Department's theater missile defense plan for defense against so-called theater ballistic missiles, which have a shorter range than the intercontinental ballistic missile, but are capable of packing nuclear and chemical warheads.
The plane that arrived in Wichita is the first of seven ABL aircraft the military plans to have available for immediate deployment to trouble spots around the world where theater ballistic missiles may come into play.
Boeing said more than 30 nations, such as North Korea and Iraq, have some 13,000 theater missiles in their arsenal.
Copyright 2000 by United Press International.
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